ADDING A DEATH TO MY DAY PLANNER

Because I’m ‘that’ guy, a co-worker excitedly approached my desk to share something. It seems no matter what Businessman Dan veil I’ve hid behind, at every workplace I inevitably become the person most folks share the witty and wacky or absurd and obscure. As my associate cued-up a photo on his cell phone, he prefaced his story with “you have a dog, don’t you?” Then, while turning the screen towards me he glanced forward. Like a kid playing freeze tag or statues, he stopped dead in his tracks. Apparently my normal RGF (resting goofy face) was briefly replaced with a pained twisted ashen expression. Reflexively, the words “for the moment” almost shot out of my mouth, but I quickly thought it best to keep the lid on that messy worm can.

After a particularly long uncomfortable pause, he asked if I was alright. I replied, “bad timing”. Apparently, I returned to my usual poker face quickly enough for my co-worker to proceed showing me the funny doofus doggie behind a glass-door pup pic. He explained his dog’s dubious dealings with a recovery collar strapped around his neck. I responded with the tale of a friend that had bedazelled her dog’s ‘cone of shame’ to look like a regal Elizabethan queen’s collar. After a brief chat, my associate walked away, I went back to the headaches on my desk, the clock kept ticking, the world kept spinning and the day continued for everyone except my dog.

My co-worker had no way of knowing I was playing God in three hours. I had an appointment to put down my 19-year-old dachshund later that afternoon.

In his last couple of years our elderly dog had retired from chasing garden moles, bunnies and squirrels. His weak legs had even made his beloved long walks a thing of the past. Instead of our nightly crazed leaping bark-fest greetings, he slept through many of our comings and goings. With some of our other pets, my wife and I almost selfishly stepped over that elusive line between their quality of life and keeping them around for us. This time the line quickly came into clear razor-sharp focus. A call to our amazing Vet only confirmed what we already knew. With 19 years of speeding inertia behind it, the time to make the most difficult final decision of our dog’s life was uncontrollably barreling into our laps.

Last month my medical doctor slapped my wrist when I showed up to my usual yearly physical over three years late. I mentioned that my dog had not missed a Vet appointment, but I was not as good with myself. I followed with a boatload of lame excuses for my extreme tardiness but that was a spurious sea cruiser she refused to board and would not hear any part of it. I like my doctor. She is straight forward, no nonsense, calls me out on my bullshit and believes in preventive medicine versus reactionary.

As I sat getting poked and prodded in all sorts painful, ticklish and embarrassing ways, I tried to make idle small talk conversation to take the focus off the lecture about waiting so long between visits. As we prepped for the prostate poke, I mentioned that the brave person that trial and error invented that procedure, must have had the same blind moxie as the person who figured out its okay to eat raw oysters. When that got no reaction, I moved to a sure-fire conversation topic guaranteed to take the focus off my overt delinquency.

I recalled she had a baby a few years before my last visit. Since everyone loves talking about their kids, I asked how her child was doing. I stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed the pained twisted ashen look that suddenly appeared on her face. She took a deep breath and gave me her well-rehearsed “she passed away late last year.” I didn’t know part of the physical was seeing if my foot fit in my mouth.

I offered sympathy and she broke the ensuing awkward silence by saying the experience has made her even more ardent about practicing preventive medicine. As we chatted more I realized besides her obvious strength, I also respected her for using the experience versus being defined by it. But I did not know how to express that, so I just kept my mouth shut.

I hate that my reaction to my co-worker’s dog picture hours before putting my pup to sleep, was the same as my doctor’s mourning the loss of her young daughter. How is it fair for me to compare the pain and shock of both events? Sure, sorrow is everywhere in the world. Always has been. It’s part of being human. But it makes me question degrees of pain and mine versus yours. Do I have the right to feel as bad as I do about the lose of my dog when so many suffer so much more?

I know it was because of the delay between my visits, but the thought still crossed my mind that spite was the reason my Doctor sent me for a handful of tests with other specialists. I set appointments all over town for stuff like an EKG, a CT scan, a colonoscopy and some other junk. So far, the results of all my visits are as good as can be expected. But when things turned bad with the dog, I also had to make the appointment for his final visit. The Vet assured us we could bring him in anytime night or day if we had to, but otherwise she would stick by our decision to let us have one last weekend and then take care of things late Tuesday.

I kept having issues, not about our decision, but with setting up the appointment. This was not me setting a time to get my teeth cleaned, give blood or even get an uncomfortable medical procedure. This was me just casually setting up a time and place to play God with the life of our beloved dog. As the days and hours clicked closer my uneasiness grew. BJ had as good a weekend as possible but by Tuesday he was noticeably weaker. As my calendar reminders went off, my feelings grew more disconcerting. Just another penciled-in mark on my planner. It felt cold and messed with my head until my coworker came over to my desk asking, “You have a dog…?” “For the moment” I thought.

In my head, that moved it from obsessively uncomfortable to gallows humor. My brain was better with that. It put me in the right frame of mind. I was not playing God. I might have casually set an appointment but that day he made it clear he was done. I was not shooting the horse because I did not need him, I was making the ultimate sacrifice FOR him. It hurt, but we were doing the exact right thing at the exact right time. Afterwards, our pain still lingered, but the clock kept ticking and the world kept spinning.

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PRESENTING THE LINKS

The three flights of steep hundred-year old steps squeaked, creaked and wiggled with each heavy footstep. Forget about the boxes of clothes and books, for weeks I had been freaking out abut getting my six wooden ‘Peaches”crates of extremely heavy record albums up to the third floor of the old Brooklyn Brownstone apartment. As it turned out, all it took was a bribe of a Wo-Hop Chinatown dinner to get some friends to drive eight hours from Ohio to help lug my crap up all those well-worn linoleum covered wooden stairs.

Back when I was a kid the primary ways of  listening to music at home was either radio, records and tapes. Radio stopped being an option once my tastes grew more eclectic and bizarre. Tapes wore out and broke so records became my thing. My collection grew as I became more obsessed, frequently trolling through the stacks at used record stores, thrift shops and flea markets to find the rare, strange and obscure.

In my head, there was a very fine blurry line between just plain bad and fabulously irresistibly amazingly awful… like The Links. I purchased their 1970 “Presenting The Links” album for a buck simply based on their goofy cover photo and wacky liner notes. It was a bonus that the cheesy vocals and lounge singer arrangements turned out to be presenting the linksequally hilarious.  I became obsessed with the horrid music of the two Link brothers and their “missing Link” pal Stan. I tortured my friends by repeatedly playing that album, adding Links songs to ‘mix tapes’ and even shooting a stop motion animation video set to their version of My Way. For a while I even had the album cover mounted and displayed on my wall.

When CDs came out, I started replacing my mainstream lps with the easy to play lightweight format but always held onto the goofier vinyl like The Links.  Eventually computer streaming rendered my collection even more irrelevant… well almost. Those rare, strange and obscure collectables still could not be found online and often the cover was the best part.  I’ve held onto those without waver, along with some that I’m sentimentally attached to or just can’t bring myself to get rid of because I’ve had them so long. They have always been there, wherever I lived, with whoever I was living with, through miserable times and joyous.

Having a record collection has drifted in and out of vogue although recently, without doing a damn thing, I’ve moved from dated dinosaur to groovy hipster.

One of my fellow vinyl loving friends that I repeatedly tortured with The Links, was my buddy Charlie. He also was the one I talked to on the phone days before my New York move, that ended up road tripping with his friends, to lug my records through the snow and up those many old Brooklyn stairs. It was about the most memorable move of my life. A couple of decades later, I paid a helluva lot more for professional movers to do the grunt work of dragging those same records to my current house. That last move was tough on me.  It was difficult and draining.  Even without personally doing most of the lifting, it got me again contemplating thinning out the collection.

Since vinyl has kind of regained some retro cool appeal, I started investigating the value of some of my more unusual stuff to see what i could get for them.  I know I could not part with The Links, but something made me do a little digging on the internet. I assumed I would not find anything because who the hell else would care about a 50 year-old disturbingly bad record but…  OH MY GOD.     No good can come from what I found. I apologize in advance because this could get ugly. I not only found information about my Holly Grail Of Horrible, I learned there are at least five more Holy Grails to seek!!!!

Apparently The Links became regulars on the Reno bar circuit. As the years went by, they kept recording more albums that they autographed and sold at the shows. Best of all, each had an increasingly more cringe-worthy cover. I must find them!

Furthermore, during the 1980s, one of the original Links’ wives eventually joined the band as the bass player.  Still billed as The Links, she and another woman still constantly tour as a duet entertaining the elderly at Omaha area nursing homes.

My Mother-in-law used to work at a nursing home in Atlantic Iowa, less than an hour from there. Based on their busy schedule posted on their website, it is very possible that The Links might have played there. So as I see it, after mocking The Links for decades, it turns out there is a very real chance I have an actual ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ type connection to the band!!!

So ladies and gentlemen, may I once again say… “PRESENTING, THE LINKS!!!!!”

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All The Links
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DWORKUS PLAYING GOD

I had no game. I mean NOOOO GAME! I got interested in girls fairly young, the problem was they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. NOTHING! And I don’t really blame them. As a little kid I was a combination dweeb, dork and doofus. I was a dworkus. I looked like a dworkus, I talked like a dworkus. I acted like a dworkus. I was an all-around 100% grade A, B, C and capital D DWORKUS.

It took decades but I grew to be self-confident and somewhat reign in my dworkusness, but from about 8 years old till 14, all of my relationships with girls were inside my head. Even though I wanted to, I had no ability to ask a girl out because I had zero confidence in myself.

I remember lying in bed imagining having a girlfriend, but I understood my limitations. Even in my daydreams, the girls were never initially attracted to me physically or entranced by my scintillating wit, coolness or intelligence. There was always some non-heroic external circumstance trapping them in a situation where they were forced to spend some time with Dworkus Dan. The repeated theme was meet through a crisis and get to know each other. After involuntarily getting to know me in the stuck elevator or locked empty classroom or catastrophic storm, they would see the real me and romance would blossom. Even in my fantasies, my entire game was based on right place right time.

I never really outgrew all those insecurities. They’ve hid deep inside the dim recesses of my head and occasionally pop out to taunt when I’m the most vulnerable. I mean, I’ve always known my family loved me but in general I was pretty lonely and spent a lot of time inside my own head. Now, when I recall those days from my early adolescence, I think of the Tom Petty song It’s Good To Be King.

It’s good to be king and have your own world
It helps to make friends, it’s good to meet girls
A sweet little queen who can’t run away
It’s good to be king, whatever it pays

Excuse me if I have some place in my mind
Where I go time to time..

In my daydreams I was never king or president or anybody in charge. I was just myself trying to find happiness. In real life I did not have the cut-throat drive, ego or unrelenting dedication to be a movie star, politician or virtuoso expert who could win someone over simply through respect or stature. And King? Well I certainly felt too ill-equipped to make those big life or death decisions.

Life or death. That’s been in my head a lot this week. Maybe that is why I’ve been retreating back inside my head to those simpler times when my biggest problem was the lack of a girlfriend.

I found out an old friend is quite ill, and his family might not just lose him but is also on the precipice of losing their house because of the medical bills. I feel helpless.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend. I know my wife will have a hard time since her Mom passed away last year and there is nothing I can do. I feel helpless.

My 19-year-old dog is not doing well and has had some very bad nights so it looks like we will have to make a difficult decision very soon. I feel helpless.

Worse yet, the only one of those three things I have any control over is our dog and that is not a decision I am good at making. I kinda wrote the happier blog about the pup last week with the loose thought of its nicer to write a memorial before someone dies instead of waiting till its too late to tell them you love them. That exercise in futility did not help my mental state.

Knowing if it’s the right time and then having to play God. Choosing life or death. That is just not the stuff a dworkus is built for. I guess that proves it’s not good to be King.

elementdan

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YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG… BUT MAYBE I CAN LEARN SOMETHING

 

My wiener dog is sooooo old…

 

well…

 

I’m waiting…

 

aren’t you going to say  “how old is he?”

 

’bout time.

 

He is so old, his first dog tag was written in hieroglyphics.

He is so old, when he was born, the Dead Sea was just getting sick.

He is so old, his first Christmas was the first Christmas.

He is so old, he used to go for walks in the Garden Of Eden.

Okay, maybe he is not THAT old, but the little guy is really getting up there in years. We do not know his exact birthday, but the Vet estimates he is pushing 19 years old. In human years, that puts him somewhere age-wise between Methuselah and Count Dracula.  Hell, he’s even older than my nonagenarian Dad! Of course, I’m no kid either; these days the pup and I are both sporting an awful lot of grey.

In 2008, a friend adopted him and his brother from a dachshund rescue shelter. Being a bit of a persnickety metrosexual-ish pup with skin allergies, he did not fare well his two weeks on her muddy horse farm. She sent my wife some wistful-eyed photos in the hopes we could help find him a more suitable forever home. That night when my wife started showing the pics to some friends, I stopped her.  When I said, “he might already have a home” I meant it as a ‘lets talk about’ thing, but she took it as a ‘done deal’.  Which was okay; I had kinda’ already fallen in love with the sad-eyed photos of the little red guy. That weekend Brisco moved in.

Previously, all of our pets had names taken from M*A*S*H characters (yeah I know). We have had a Radar, Max, Potter, Margaret, Francis, Zelmo, Sophie (think about it) and others, but since there was no Brisco in the movie, TV series or books (I checked), his name morphed into B.J. or Bee-g. Although I tended to call him Brisket based on his size, shape and color.

The evening we got him, he climbed down the tiny half step to our porch and stumbled howling in pain. We ran to comfort him, but he barely knew us. You could tell he was scared and hurting. Crap, I thought to myself, we just adopted a defective doggie, a damaged dachshund, a mangled mutt, a crippled cur, a busted bow-wow, a fractured flea-bag… My wife and I did not say anything till later, but at the time we both quickly assumed that must be why his original owner gave him up.

I was suddenly afraid to bond with him. How would we afford the zillion dollars of vet bills? What if he needed one of those custom-cart doggie wheelchair things like a quadriplegic Stephen Wiener Hawkins rolling around electronically emitting a metallic sounding ‘Bark Bark’ through a computer. Or worse yet, what if there was no cure and he had to be… well… you know… taking one-way walkies off this mortal coil or over the rainbow bridge or one of those other things people say when they don’t wanna’ deal with the permanence of death.  Were we victims of canine chicanery, a hound hornswoggle, a fido flim-flam, a rover rip-off…?!?!?  But who would we complain too? Our friend? the rescue? The unknown original owner?

First thing Monday we took him to our trusted Vet, who confirmed there might have been some skullduggery since he was not the advertised 4 – 5 years-old but more like 8 – 9. But more importantly, his bum back was from him being double the weight he should have been. Luckily after a few months of doggie dieting on a healthier food, he was running like a crazed nine pound goofball. Even now with his old-man hurting hips, he still sometimes has spry moments running around like a psycho puppy.

Unfortunately, with each passing day, his age is showing more and more. He sleeps for hours on end, only has a half of handful of teeth, is mostly blind, pretty much deaf, quite a bit incontinent, has Graves’ disease (what a really bad name), has a touch of doggie dementia and his hind legs give out fairly frequently causing him difficulty standing. Otherwise he is in perfect shape! The Vet actually says he is doing as best as can be expected; he is not in pain, still plays and loves being spoiled. Of course, since he is part of the family, we deal with it.  But there is more going on than just that.

The Wife and I have plenty of experience caring for old animals. A few years back we used to describe our house as a geriatric kennel. But lately, both of our families have been dealing with a lot of serious illness and death. When B.J. is having a bad day, I can see in my wife’s eyes that she is near her limit and does not have the bandwidth much more of this. For me, the pup’s struggles play a different mind game.

My Dad is in his 90s and can sometimes be a real handful for my Sister who shares a house with him and my 89-year-old Mom. My Father has always been a bit stubborn and accepting the physical limitations of his health and age is not coming easy. He just wants to feel useful but his defiant stance about some recent foolish failed attempts at home repair are causing major stress around the house. This is nothing new. Back when he was 80, after a hurricane hit their Orlando neighborhood, he took it upon himself to climb onto a neighbor’s roof to repair some tiles for them. To say the least, we were not happy that an aging octogenarian was doing a dangerous impression of a spry young roofer.

I see similarities between my pup and Dad. Both are getting way up there in years, neither can do what they used to and the two of them absolutely will not listen when you beg them not to do something they shouldn’t. Unable to control them or the passing of time, there is nothing I can do but worry. Worse yet, I constantly feel like I am seeing coming attractions.  No matter how far I run, I am still my Father’s son. If I live to be as old as my Dad or the pup, will I be as obstinate; repeatedly torturing the people that care about me the most, as I try to salvage the last vestiges of my self-importance and dignity?

I think of my sister’s more dramatic frustrations when I’m trying to be calm and patient while cleaning up after one of B.J.’s many accidents. I wonder in the future if there will be anyone to passionately look after me. I don’t wish that on my wife. I don’t have children, but if I did, I would not want to saddle them with that burden either.

What will I do? How will I handle a lack of independence? Will I simply end up a drooling invalid in a depressing low-budget crumbling assisted living facility in a bad part of town with an angry one-eyed Eastern Bloc brute of nurse named Zolga with a short fuse, cold rough hands and a propensity for using my credit cards to sign up for magazine subscriptions? My head spins and spins.

So, I say again, my dog is sooooo old…

 

(that’s your cue to say “how old is he” again)

 

He is so old, he makes me question my own mortality.

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RIDING THE FINANCIAL ELEVATOR

The man holding the sign with my name was not waiting outside by the arrivals passenger pick-up area or near the baggage carousels. Nor was he just outside security or even inside at the gate. I had never seen this before… or since. The man holding the sign with my name on it was standing just outside the open door of the airplane right at the end of the jet-way.

The three of us traveling together followed the driver down the stairs on the side of the retractable passenger sky-bridge down to his waiting limo parked on the tarmac right next to the plane. He drove us around to a small unmarked building entrance right off the airfield. I was familiar with Zurich’s large international airport, but I had never before seen the hallways he led us down. Eventually we ended up in a quiet waiting area with soft leather furniture, multiple computers, magazines, a fully stocked bar, coffee/tea/espresso machines, all manner of soft drinks and snacks. We never went through security or customs. About twenty minutes later someone brought our bags and led us to another small room where they took a cursory glance at our passports and ran our bags through a small x-ray machine. Then our driver led us back outside for the short limo ride around the multiple runways over to our waiting private Sikorsky 8-seat helicopter.

When I was growing up my brother Neil described our social stratum as ‘Upper Poverty’. We were never that bad off but there were times things got tight, especially right after my Dad and Grandfather were forced to close their store when its Queens neighborhood turned dicey. Dad busted his hump working seven days a week to keep us kids oblivious to our tenuous financial situation. My Mother took a job as a crossing guard.  She also started shopping for our clothes at the discount stores down Myrtle Ave in Ridgewood, buying bulk frozen food from the restaurant supply place and sewing her own outfits. Mom even handmade miniature Barbie clothes so my sister could keep up with her friends, the Chiarello girls, who always seemed to have the latest and greatest. Most of my toys were hand-me-downs from my three older brothers.

I would have been more blown away by the tarmac limo to the helicopter except the previous 48 hours had been equally amazing. Two days earlier I flew in a first-class front of the plane pod across the ocean to Nice, France. Eventually our private car dropped us off in Monaco where I stayed  two nights myself in a $2800 a night two room/two bath suite with a double size balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. I lounged at the members-only Monte Carlo Beach Club, dined at a four-star open air-restaurant on the water’s edge and was invited for afternoon cocktails on the yacht Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace Kelly honeymooned on.

In time my folk’s world got much better. They bought and furnished a new house in central Florida, had three cars including my Dad’s bright yellow fully restored late 60s muscle car convertible, they traveled a lot and ate out about four nights a week. They were not wealthy but a far cry from the scrimping days years before. Of course, that was after I, the last of the kids, moved out. On the other hand, I was a starving student at college too proud to ask my folks for more money. For months I lived off of canned ravioli, generic mac ‘n’ cheese, $1.99 Cap’t D fried fish coupons and the Tallahassee Holiday Inn bar’s weeknight happy hour buffet and ‘Buck a Bud’ special. It is impressive how many free hot dogs and nachos I could eat while nursing one cheap beer.

We spent a leisurely afternoon wandering the streets of Monaco visiting the casino, cafe and the local Ferrari dealership. Than as evening approached, I showered and slipped on my recently purchased Tuxedo. Our chauffeured Mercedes dropped us off at Monte Carlo’s famous opulent opera house for an invitation-only one-night performance attended by the Price of Monaco and his family.  After the show we passed through the gauntlet of reporters trying to interview the models, celebrities, dignitaries and royalty as we all made our way across the street to Hotel De Paris ballroom for the after-show gala that lasted late into the night.

When I graduated college, I was driving a thirteen year old Buick with more exposed rust and grey Bondo then paint. Never mind the occasional flame that shot out of the engine.  Afraid my hand-me down heap would not make the five-hour drive to my Folks new place and having no money for repairs, I rented a big old car for $20 a day from the local Ugly Duckling rental place. I switched out with my car every hose, belt, plug and wire that I could get to fit. At the time I thought I was being resourceful but in truth being broke was not really a good excuse to do that.

After a half hour helicopter ride over the stunning Swiss countryside, we landed in a field just outside a small town in the foothills of the Alps. The waiting private car took us the short drive to a small 150-year-old watch factory where the president of the company sat with us in a glass walled room overlooking grazing cows in the farm across the street. A private chef served us a lunch of foie gras, canapés and various charcuterie, as we learned about the rich history of the company. After we toured the facility and viewed some of their handmade products, the helicopter took us back to Zurich where we had an Italian seafood dinner with several bottles of wine in the old town cobblestoned Altstadt neighborhood alongside the Limmat river.

I’ve spent my entire life feeling guilty about taking all those car parts. At the time, I rationalized it by telling myself when I had some cash, I’d send an anonymous $200 check to Ugly Duckling. A few years later when I started making good money, I actually tried to follow through on paying them back but I discovered the company had gone out of business. Was it people like me that were the cause? It was not my proudest moment and I’ve really tried to do the right thing ever since.  Damn conscience; I guess my folks did not need a lot of money to teach me morals and scruples.  I’ve since had a couple of instances where mechanics way overcharged me and I just wrote it off to karma.

We all had a nightcap at the Dolder Grand Hotel bar before my two traveling companions headed up to their rooms to get some sleep before our early flight home in the morning. I did not want the trip to end so I spent a couple of hours strolling the majestic halls, art galleries and surrounding grounds in 120-year-old 5-star hotel located in the hills overlooking Zurich. Not able to sleep, I stared out the window at the twinkling late-night city lights reflecting off the large lake.

The auto that picked us up was less a limo and more of a taxi. This time we had to go through the normal procedures at the airport and being low man on the totem pole, I got bumped out of First Class to a Business seat that did not recline properly and had a staticy short in the headphones. Still, it was light years away from that broke kid with precariously rigged car. My head started contemplating all I’ve learned from my life’s up and down financial elevator ride. I’ve experienced the extremes of both the haves and the have-nots. Yeah, one is better than the other, but I am the same optimistic happy person either way. Not defined by what I have but by who I am.

SAMSUNG

SKYLARK

 

 

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WHITE WIDGET WOES

white thingie

What is this thing? A Flea Circus ladder to a tiny trapeze? A finger sizer? An un-twined strand of petrified dinosaur DNA?  Something to hold wires to a wall?  I honestly don’t know and since I can’t recall what it’s from or when it first appeared, I’m now afraid to throw it away. My luck, the minute I toss it, I’ll discover I need it… whatever it is… and then where the hell would I ever find a replacement wiggly white widget.

So, for months I’ve been playing the ‘toss or keep’ game with that little white plastic doodad.  I don’t dwell on it every day. Just occasionally it catches my eye in the morphing pile of useful, but homeless, crap on my den desk. Well, I guess it’s not really a ‘den’ anymore. Years ago when my buddy Mike visited, he dubbed a particularly out of the way Dan-centric room in our old house, the Lewbetorium. After moving a few years ago, most of the wacky Dan crap ended up in the living room adjacent ‘den’. Unable to fight the obvious, my wife made it official by presenting me with a fancy wooden plaque to dedicate and officially dub the den the de-facto ‘new’ Lewbetorium. As for the desk part, well there is no denying it’s MY desk… you can tell by the pile of crap with the white thingie on it… and the bust of Elvis wearing Harry Carry glasses, Mardi Gras beads and a fez.

So, the other day while sitting at my Lewbetorium desk looking at the white thingamajig protruding from the side of my small crap pile, it hit me that we don’t have the typical junk drawers that most people use to stash piles of miscellaneous paraphernalia like this. I mean, out in the garage we have a clear plastic drawer-ed storage tub labeled ‘Things That Hold Other Things Together’ full of various types of tape, staples and glue. But for the most part our scissors, pens, hooks, clips, tacks, pipe cleaners, gum, unknown white plastic somethings and those rubber things you use to grasp a slippery tight lids, are mostly in various tubs, trays, buckets and piles scattered about the house.

My particular desktop pile of ends and odds kinda has a life of its own. It grows, shrinks and changes its complexion with great frequency but never seems to completely disappear. It sorta serves as a prepping waiting station for things that have no real permanent home yet or stuff, I will need very soon that I don’t want to risk misplacing. My ‘staging area’ pile has held things as important as my Passport, tablet and spare eyeglasses to dead batteries waiting to be recycled and lowly crumpled Post-Its that I don’t have the heart to throw away since one of my cats seems to find them a far more entertaining toy than anything in the massive wicker basket crammed full of expensive crap from the pet stores.

Even though I recently sifted through it, the pile is in one of its more unruly stages. Over the past few months that little white doodad has repeatedly climbed from the bottom to the top of the pile which currently contains a perfectly good cellphone case that I will never use again, an unclaimed rebate form with its accompanying proof of purchase, an ‘Apple’ plug that mocks my mountain of nearby Microsoft and Samsung electronics, my jogging heart-rate/distance watch rendered somewhat useless by a cellphone apps and the fact I have not run in months, an unclaimed $8 lottery ticket, a stack of scribbled MODIFIED BAR M MENUnotes, a Yeti registration form and an extremely old table-top menu from my Bar Mitzvah (wow, at 13 it never hit me that Rye, Scotch & Bourbon were on the menu along with a lot of real crappy crudités).

So now that it’s on the top of the heap again I just caught myself staring at the little white gizmo, debating if it’s finally time to doom it to decades of decomposition via a one-way ticket to the nearest landfill. I tried again to mentally Scooby-Doo up some clues about its purpose. Maybe it came with that replacement cell phone I got without its original packaging? Maybe it showed up around the same time I assembled a few Nest security cameras I bought to compliment my house alarm, giving me a sort of ‘belt AND suspenders’ double sense of false security. Maybe it serves as proof that teleportation exists? I just don’t know. That little white doohickey has me flummoxed.

While straining my brain almost to the point of the head exploding scientist in Scanners, I recalled finding a little round rubber disc on the kitchen floor. I kept it for years until I finally gave up and tossed it. Just days later, I dug deep into the pantry to retrieve our rarely used knock-off George Foreman like Grill to make our famous pressed ham and cheese sandwiches… okay, they’re really overly decadent pressed prosciutto di Parma and melted gruyère cheese on buttered challah bread sandwiches, but we don’t want that amazing sandwich to get a big ego so we call it ham and cheese.

Well it turns out the rubber disc was from a leg of The Griller (which, much to my Wife’s chagrin, every time I take out the thing, I sing ‘Griller’ to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Thriller). It was all wobbly and I wished I had saved the rubber disc.  Luckily, I found a replacement one at a local hardware store that specializes in having all the crap you can’t find elsewhere. Heyyyyyy, that’s it.  I’ll bring my white whatchamacallit to the hardware store and see if they know what it is. Maybe they will even sell one, so I can throw mine out either way. Till then, its back into the pile.

 

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TWI LITE BEMOAN

Imagine for a moment you are in a dark quiet room. Not the kind of dark where you can still make out shadows, but completely, utterly pitch black. And very, very much too quiet.

Suddenly from nowhere a barely audible sequence of familiar musical notes gradually grows louder as it continuously repeats. bum-bum, bum-bum, bum-bum,  bum bum…  Bum-Bum, Bum-Bum, Bum-Bum,  Bum Bum…   BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM,  BUM BUM!!!    Then out of the darkness just beyond the edge of your peripheral vision, a black and white Rod Serling steps into shadowy view.

Like in a creepy old Twilight Zone episode, join me as we travel back in time. Way, way back to a very scary place… the 1970s.

The 70s was a neato, heavy, gnarly, radical decade. Can you dig it?  I knew that you could. Ah, the 70s, when the clothing was loud and flammable. Inflation, gas lines, decaying infrastructure, Watergate and near national bankruptcy. Dirty streets were lined with waterbed stores, stereo dealers and head shops.

A slightly older friend once told me it was the best time to come of age because in the short lived window Post Vietnam and  Pre AIDS copious amounts of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll were definitely acceptable and readily available. I spent my formative younger school years growing up in that ‘me’ decade but I was too young and un-cool to really benefit from the permissive social mores.

What I did experience was an unparalleled freedom. Kids were not forced to responsibly grow up like the generations before: The draft, World Wars and Duck & Cover a thing of the past. Nor was there today’s intense pressure from information overload. Old school views of parenting allowed children to still play and wander unencumbered by obsessive safety precautions. The world was just starting to spin crazy fast but without computers and cellphones, you could independently ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’. Of course, knowing all the crazy-shit we got away with, is likely how all the fear-driven precautions got started.

Moving from a big-family New York world to an only-child Miami situation, during the self-indulgent Disco / Punk / Scarface era, certainly afforded me lots of opportunities to be a rebellious wild child but I was a good(ish) kid; close to the craziness but not in the thick of it.  Like one High School years weekend when I told my Mom I was staying at my friend Tim’s house. I might have omitted the parts about his folks being away and the planned drinking party. Past midnight after Tim passed out, Mike and I wandered the half mile to another friend’s house while loudly singing Del Shannon’s Runaway. But like I said, I was good(ish) kid so when we got to our destination, I might have watched a friend grind up and snort lines of No-Doze when she ran out of cocaine, but I did not join her in either.

I’d love to say it was my high morals and strong scruples that helped me wade through the turpitude and temptations of the era, but like I said, I was a pretty uncool kid and had few opportunities to get in real trouble. When I did, I usually wussed out, like I was afraid to skip school for a week with my friends who snuck up to Ft Lauderdale to be extras in Caddyshack (still regret that one). Sure, Mike and I would sometimes drive around and cause some minor mischief moving around Bob’s Barricades or piling a street’s worth of garbage bags in front of a fellow student’s house but nothing real dangerous.  I was not a big risk taker, although my friend Julie once dated a rich older guy that worked in one of those groovy waterbed stores, who drove me in his Lamborghini Espada at well over 100 mph blowing through a few red lights on the western end of Calle Ocho towards the Everglades.

But I have drifted very far from my point.  Yes, I actually do have a point. And that point is the Twilight Zone.

twilight

Why do I still have this?

Back in the mid-70s when I first got to Florida, I had no friends so I found myself watching a lot of TV. Sound Advice, a cheesy local stereo dealer, sponsored a nightly commercial-free showing of the old black and white 1960’s sci-fi show. A local ‘audiophile’ DJ, Dave Dixon, the store’s big bellied scraggly long-haired spokesperson, would clumsily introduce each episode after urging all to come down to the store to pick up a free Twilight Zone episode guide and test out the foreign named expensive tape decks, tuners and gigantic high wattage floor speakers that would certainly make you the envy of your equally materialistic braggart buddies.. Of course I could not afford any electronics beyond my cheesy Radio

close up desk

My High School Era Desk

Shack phonograph and dated 8-track player, but I did once stop in to get an episode guide and a signed photo of big scary Dave that I hung among the other crap over my desk.

I remember my older brother Arthur introducing me to the Twilight Zone when I was a real little kid, but I got hooked during those 1970s Miami years. I recall one episode that was supposed to take place in the not so distant future from when it was filmed in the early 60s. In the opening sequence it flashed the future date of 1977, the year I was actually watching. Their vision of what the future would be like was quite wrong but it got me wondering how different my future would be from what I was envisioning. As it turned out, all my childhood assumptions of what my life would be like, ended up nothing like my realty. I’ve experienced more than I ever expected and I’m much happier than I ever really believed I’d be.

A few months ago, when my wife was out of town, I recorded a couple of Twilight Zone episodes on our DVR. I never got around to one so after she got back, I occasionally suggested we watch it but it’s not really her thing. Finally, late one lazy Saturday night she agreed. We started the classic time travel episode A Stop at Willoughby where a man in a high-pressure job jumps off his commuter train home into his version of a simpler time and place. As it started, I wondered if my personal Willoughby would be in the 1970s when I had first seen that episode?  I secretly hoped my wife would like it and maybe get hooked like I had so many years before.

Unfortunately, I cannot personally travel back in time to do things differently. Otherwise, I might have zipped back exactly a half hour because after all the buildup, I nodded off and fell asleep while we were watching it.  My wife never said if she enjoyed it or not. I don’t even really know if she got all the way through it because I was a little too embarrassed to ask.

So, I think maybe I’ll keep The Twilight Zone as a Dan thing. A reminder of my past, all the changes in my life and how far I’ve come. It’s almost like I am living in a different dimension… a dimension of time… and of sound…between light and shadow, between science and superstition… BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM,  BUM BUM!!!

 

 

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